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Mon, 11.20.1882

Scottie Primus Davis, Educator born

Scottie Primus Davis

*Scottie Primus Davis was born on this date in 1882.  She was a Black teacher. 

Davis was born in Lebanon, Kentucky; she was the daughter of Addison Davis and Hattie Smith Primus Davis. When she was five, she relocated to Chicago with her parents. She enrolled at St. James Catholic School and later entered public school. The family moved north to St. Paul, Minnesota, when she was 14.

The Davis family lived in St. Paul’s Rondo community for over a dozen years. Her father worked as a waiter at various hotels and clubs, including Aberdeen, Minnesota Club, Commercial Club, and Merchant’s Hotel. He managed the laundry department at Valet Tailoring in 1906.  She was acquainted with Nellie Francis, though quite a bit younger. The family lived on Charles Avenue and Aurora Avenue.   Her family attended St. Peter Claver Church.  

While going to school, Davis participated in community work, as well. In 1898, local Blacks hosted a first-of-its-kind Cuba Pageant, a theatrical drama performed supporting Afro-Cuban freedom struggles. The production featured almost three hundred players on stage in front of a crowd of 2,000 people. Mrs. Addison Davis, as she was named in the St. Paul Globe, was listed with other women as “active patronesses” of the event. In 1901, she was elected treasurer of St. Paul’s Adelphi Club, which focused on social, educational, and philanthropic projects.

Her mother also hosted events. One was a picnic in Como Park in 1898. Lawyer Frederick McGhee and J. Q. Adams, the editor of The Appeal newspaper, attended. Young Davis was there alongside the local leaders.  Sometimes, the youths gathered at the family home. The Appeal reported that the Cosmos Club, a young men’s organization, entertained lady friends at a theater party. After the performance, “a sumptuous repast was served by the ladies at the home of Miss Scottie Davis on Aurora Avenue.” One attendee, S. E. Hall, was the president of the Cosmos Club, a barber, and a community activist. He later helped establish the St. Paul Urban League.

In 1990, Davis graduated from St. Paul Central High School with high honors (Image above). She also wrote a short article as a senior for the January 1900 issue of The World, the school’s literary publication. Titled “Thirty Years of Freedom,” she touched on the progress of Blacks since the end of slavery.  Scottie Davis was the first Black woman to graduate from the University of Minnesota in 1904. The Appeal Newspaper lauded the scholar, who excelled in mathematics, spoke German and French, and read Greek and Latin.

Heading south, Davis took an assistant teacher position at the Louisville Central Colored High School beginning in 1904. Her starting salary was $80 a month. Her tenure ended when she was dismissed in June 1913. She was considered an efficient teacher but “did not cooperate fully” with the school principal. Her personnel file indicates, "Miss Davis worked well previously with two earlier principals.” Records show she resubmitted applications in Louisville, but she was not rehired. Davis moved on to Sumner High School in Kansas City, Kansas.

She was a demanding teacher who got results from her students. One student commented years later. I remember she always took her evening meals at the local S. S. Kresge, although she, like other Blacks, had to sit at the rear of the store. A Sumner Junior College was started inside the high school building in 1924, and Davis was its first English teacher. , She was a member of  Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, and in 1935, Davis earned her master’s degree in education from Harvard University.

Her thesis was entitled “Implications Relative to Curricular Offerings in Urban High Schools for Negroes Drawn from a Distribution of Teachers.” Using her classroom work in Kansas City, in her research, Davis tracked 27,408 grades given by Sumner teachers over two years in industrial arts, mathematics, social and physical sciences, drawing, modern language, English, commercial, home economics, and music. With a degree in hand, Davis was back to work at Sumner.

Davis retired from teaching at Sumner Junior College in 1951. The longtime English teacher returned to Kentucky, the state of her birth, and lived in Louisville for the rest of her life. On September 3, 1963, she suffered a fall while in Anchorage, Kentucky. The immediate causes of death were listed as a fractured right hip followed by bronchial pneumonia after an extended stay in the hospital. Scottie Primus Davis died in Anchorage, KY, on December 9, 1963. The funeral was held at St. Boniface Catholic Church, with her burial at Calvary Cemetery.

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